NOT REAL NEWS: Erupting Hawaii volcano not raining gemstones

FILE - This Wednesday, June 6, 2018 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a laze (lava haze) plume rising from the northern side of the fissure 8 lava flow margins in the former Kapoho Bay at the town of Kapoho on the island of Hawaii. On Tuesday, June 19, 2018, The Associated Press has found that stories circulating on the internet that the ongoing eruption of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii is causing crystals to rain from the sky are untrue. (U.S. Geological Survey via AP)
University of Hawaii geology professor Michael Garcia shows a piece of olivine embedded in a chunk of lava from a prehistoric eruption of Kilauea volcano in his office in Honolulu on Tuesday, June 19, 2018. Olivine is a common mineral in Hawaiian lava, but the olivine from a current Kilauea eruption is much smaller and harder to extract. The ongoing eruption is not causing crystals to rain from the sky despite reports of residents finding little green gems in the area. (AP Photo/Jennifer Sinco Kelleher)
FILE - In this July 7, 2014, file photo, people sunbathe at Papakolea green sand beach near Ocean View, Hawaii. The Associated Press has found that stories circulating on the internet that the ongoing eruption of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii is causing crystals to rain from the sky are untrue. While olivine is a common mineral in Hawaiian lava, and it is embedded inside the lava that has been bursting out of fissures near the Kilauea volcano, sizeable rocks of actual olivine “gems” are not showering down, scientists say. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia, File)

HONOLULU — The ongoing eruption of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii is not causing crystals to rain from the sky despite reports of residents finding little green gems in the area.

"Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Is Literally Raining Gemstones Now, And We Want Some," said a headline on sciencealert.com, with reports on the phenomena also picked up by newspapers and magazines. They all featured photos of small stones said to be olivine, which were tweeted by a woman who identified herself as a meteorologist in Arizona.

The woman, Erin Jordan, told The Associated Press in a Twitter message her friends who found the stones live in Kalapana, Hawaii. The Big Island community is about 12 miles (19 kilometers) from the neighborhoods where a series of lava fissures have opened up in the ground since early May.

While olivine is a common mineral in Hawaiian lava, and it is embedded inside the lava that has been bursting out of fissures near the Kilauea volcano, sizeable rocks of actual olivine "gems" are not showering down, scientists say. Photos posted of olivine on social media are "definitely not what we're seeing in the lava," Cheryl Gansecki, a geologist at the University of Hawaii's Hilo campus on the Big Island, told reporters last week during a U.S. Geological Survey briefing. They could be from much older lava flows, she said.

"There's not olivine raining from the sky, except in clumps of lava," Gansecki said. "I think this is pretty much a nonstory, unfortunately."

"What we're seeing are tiny and they do no separate from the lava themselves," she said. "You'd have to crush the lava to get them out and find them."

Michael Garcia, a professor of geology at the University of Hawaii's Manoa campus in Honolulu, has a student who is extracting olivine from a 1985 eruption. The olivine extracted from lightly crushing pumice-like material in unpolished form is gray, not shiny and green, which it becomes after being weathered over time, Garcia said.

Olivine is the reason the Big Island has a green sandy beach, he said.

In gemstone form, a variety of olivine is known as peridot. But most of the Hawaii olivine is not typically gemstone quality, Garcia said: "Too small and broken."

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This is part of The Associated Press' ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

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Find all AP Fact Checks here: https://www.apnews.com/tag/APFactCheck

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Follow @APFactCheck on Twitter

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